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Interview with Cristen Markos, Cochlear Corporation

Cristen Markos

March 24, 2008

Topic: Cochlear Custom Sound Suite 2.0
Paul Dybala: Hello, this is Dr. Paul Dybala with Audiology Online. Today, I am interviewing Cristen Markos, a product validation audiologist for Cochlear Corporation. Cristen, welcome and thank you for meeting with me today.

Cristen Markos: Thank you, Paul.

Dybala: We are talking about the Cochlear Custom Sound Suite 2.0, the new software platform for your cochlear implants; however, before we get into this exciting new software, please tell us a little bit about your professional background and what you do for Cochlear.

Markos: I have been working for Cochlear for approximately three years in the field as a clinical specialist; however, I am now in Denver working as a product validation audiologist. With this job, I assess our products prior to launch. For instance, we recently completed a comprehensive study assessing a new product we will be releasing soon, the Freedom for N22, which is the Freedom sound processor designed for Nucleus 22 users.

Dybala: That's great. Now, tell us about your new cochlear implant software platform. What are the main components of the Custom Sound Suite 2.0?

Markos: Custom Sound Suite 2.0 is comprised of two different software programs: Custom Sound 2.0 and Custom Sound EP 2.0. It is used by clinicians to program all Nucleus devices, and it has new, great features that are designed to enhance the hearing experience for all of our recipients.

The key components that I would like to highlight are Implant ID, SmartSound 2, which are our preprocessing strategies; the new Hearing Mentor; and Freedom for Nucleus 22.

I will start with Implant ID. Implant ID gives you two levels of protection: Type Checking to verify the type of implant and that the processor is connected and Specific Implant ID, which identifies the processor to help avoid confusion between multiple devices. The latter is intended for our bilateral recipients as well as those families that have more than one family member with a processor.

Dybala: I am sure this is helpful in the clinic or classroom to identify processors as well. Can you tell us about the SmartSound 2?

Markos: Absolutely. SmartSound 2 is a great upgrade from our SmartSound options that we had previously. The options are now enviro-centric, rather than technology based. We are not referring to ADRO, ASC, etc. We are really combining SmartSound technologies and grouping them under different listening environments.

There are four new SmartSound environments: everyday use, noise, focus, and music, which really enables more intuitive programming for the clinicians and easier counseling for the recipients. It is much easier to say, "Use this in an everyday environment," instead of saying, "This is ADRO, and this is what it does and this is what it means." It simplifies things a lot.

Dybala: That sounds great. As far as the software, are these new algorithms, a reorganization of current algorithms that you already have, or a combination of the two?

Markos: Yes. Actually, they are both. They are new as well as combined combinations of things that we have had in the past. We have had ADRO and ASC separately, just for example, and now we are adding those together to create an ADRO+ASC map. This is just one example of how we combined things that we already had to improve our input processing options.

Overall, SmartSound 2 helps audiologists improve how their patients hear, and helps patients better understand how their cochlear implant works. It is a new feature of the software that is designed to deliver superior hearing performance

Dybala: Tell us about the Hearing Mentor.

Markos: Hearing Mentor is an industry first and provides expert guidance to fine tune MAPs with the click of a button. Hearing Mentor provides clinicians access to Cochlear's 25 years of sound processing knowledge. Through Custom Sound 2.0, the Hearing Mentor provides clinicians with a list of commonly reported sound quality symptoms and recommended solutions.

We use familiar descriptions to better guide the clinician; if the recipient says it sounds bubbly, then that is what we have in the Hearing Mentor. Then the audiologist can simply hit a button to adjust, so that the sound isn't bubbly anymore. The solutions can be applied one or more times, automatically, by a single button press.

Dybala: Is this new to the Cochlear software?

Markos: Yes it is. It is the first time that we have provided something like this. We worked very hard with global experts to create a program that enables clinicians to translate recipients' concerns, translate those into sound quality symptoms, and then answer them. Hearing Mentor is 25 years of sound processing experience at your fingertips.

Dybala: The last topic today is the Freedom for N22, your latest sound processor. Could you tell us about it?

Cochlear Nucleus Freedom Sound Processor

Markos: I would be happy to. Here at Cochlear Americas, we believe that when a recipient chooses our cochlear implant system, they are making a life-long decision, and we want to support them with the latest and greatest technology for a lifetime. This sound processor is for Nucleus 22 recipients. It represents the sixth sound processor that Cochlear has developed for this group of users in the last 20 years, and the fifth sound processor upgrade, which is pretty amazing.

We understand that a new processor is an exciting opportunity, and we want to provide the same opportunities to our previous generations of implant recipients as we give people that are newly implanted.

Dybala: Sure. An implant is a big commitment, and by providing upgrades of the sound processor, it is a huge benefit to your recipients.

Could you give us an overview of the validation study you mentioned earlier?

Markos: Yes, we assessed several different maps and conducted a lot of speech testing. It showed that our Nucleus 22 recipients did better with the Freedom processor. In addition, they really liked the feel and all of the upgrades, such as program slots and water resistance that they did not have with their previous processors.

In addition, our trial showed that the Freedom for N22 recipients benefited from the SmartSound 2 application.

Dybala: Great. When is the Custom Sound Suite 2.0 going to be available?

Markos: Custom Sound 2.0 will be available starting in late January. Freedom for Nucleus 22 will be available February 4th for all Nucleus 22 recipients to order. All recipients of Nucleus 22 devices will be receiving mailings and information on how they can upgrade. We will have an upgrade team with dedicated phone lines and trade-in programs, just as we did with the N24 upgrade recipients. There will be information on our website, and audiologists can always call Cochlear with any questions as well.

Dybala: Great. For more information, go to Cochlear's website at or the Cochlear web channel on Audiology Online at - I am sure our readers can also look forward to courses from Cochlear on the Custom Sound Suite 2.0 in the future on Audiology Online.

Cristen, thank you again for your time, and we look forward to seeing these new releases.

Markos: Thank you very much.

About Cochlear Americas

Based in Englewood, Colorado, Cochlear Americas was established in 1984. Over the last two decades, Cochlear Americas has broadened their services to over 500 clinics and provided implants to well over 40,000 people of all ages. As a division of the Cochlear Corporation, Cochlear Americas represents a dynamic company with a passion to help individuals with hearing impairment. By providing sound processor upgrades and new software updates and through their endless research, Cochlear continues to pave the way to better sound quality for individuals with hearing impairment throughout their lives.

For more information, visit Cochlear's web channel on Audiology Online at
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Cristen Markos